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White House Brief: Things to know about Bobby Jindal

May 18, 2015

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who became the first Indian-American governor when he took office in 2008, said Monday he has formed an exploratory committee to consider running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Here’s a quick snapshot with key things to know about Jindal.



Named Louisiana’s health secretary at 24, Bobby Jindal seems to have been working toward a presidential race for nearly his entire adult life. As governor, he has reworked Louisiana’s ethics code, created a statewide school choice program and privatized much of the state Medicaid low-income health care program. He’s steadfastly refused to consider new taxes, even as state financial problems grew worse, and his budget maneuvers are blamed by both Republicans and Democrats for causing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.



Prior to his election as governor, Jindal served three years in Congress, representing suburban New Orleans from 2005 through 2008. Before that, he led a national commission looking at the future of the Medicare health care program for the elderly, served as president of one of Louisiana’s public university systems and worked as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration. He’s only lost one election, a failed bid for governor in 2003.



The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal was given the name Piyush when he was born in Baton Rouge on June 10, 1971. He said he picked up the nickname “Bobby” because of his affinity for the youngest son on the TV show “The Brady Bunch.” While Jindal was raised a Hindu, he converted to Catholicism as a teenager. He and his wife Supriya, a chemical engineer who is now a stay-at-home mother, have three children: a daughter, Selia, and sons Shaan and Slade. Both sons’ births came with drama: Shaan had a heart condition that required open heart surgery just after he was born, while Jindal delivered Slade at home when his wife went into labor before an ambulance could arrive. Jindal has bachelor’s degrees in biology and public policy from Brown University and a graduate degree from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.



Jindal set an example for strong and effective government response through a string of Louisiana disasters, including the massive Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010, hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and a Mississippi River flood. He held regular press conferences rattling off lists of disaster response efforts and fought the Obama administration on appropriate tactics to combat the oil spill, trying to strike a contrast with his predecessor, who often appeared overwhelmed during the back-to-back devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.



Jindal has pivoted from his reputation as a policy wonk to make his religious beliefs the centerpiece of a possible campaign, courting evangelical Christians and aggressively promoting religious liberty. He’s spoken in private meetings with pastors in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to hold votes in the nomination battle, and at a gathering of faith leaders and conservative activists in Washington. In a recent speech in South Carolina, another key state in the primary race, Jindal touted his credentials as a social conservative, including his pushback against criticism from some in the business community over religious liberty laws that have become a flashpoint in the national debate over same-sex marriage. He described his message to business leaders as: “Don’t even waste your breath trying to bully the governor of Louisiana.”



“American Will: The Forgotten Choices That Changed Our Republic” will be released in October. Jindal says the book is a review of events ranging from the Louisiana Purchase to the Cold War and offers lessons for the present, which he considers “a critical moment” for the U.S. A previous Jindal book, “Leadership and Crisis,” came out in 2010.



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